How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Anemone Canadensis

Anemone canadensis is an adorable native North America flowering plant that deserves a spot in your garden. Kevin Espiritu teaches you how to grow and care for the Canada anemone in this guide.

Caring for Anemone Canadensis

Contents

Anemone canadensis is native to river margins, river flood plains, and low moist meadows, making it a wonderful flowering ground cover plant for your garden. It’s also known as Canada anemone, meadow anemone, or round-leaf anemone.

As the name itself suggests, Anemone canadensis is cultivated throughout southern Canada and Northern America. Let’s explore how best to care for this gorgeous and fast-growing ground cover.

Plant Overview

Anemone Canadensis
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Ranunculaceae
Genus Anemone
Species Anemone canadensis
Exposure Partial to full shade
Heigth 1-2.5′
Watering Requirements Moderate to high
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Rich and well-draining

What is Anemone Canadensis?

Close up of a field of small white flowers with long stems. Each flower has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center.
Native to North America, these flowers were used medicinally by local tribes.

Windflower has bright green foliage and small, eye-catching white flowers. Native to North America, it’s found from Canada and south well into the United States. Tribal people use the roots and leaves of this plant medicinally. It’s a common sight in moist meadows or along stream banks.

A vigorous grower, it’s not considered invasive but can rapidly spread. Its underground rhizome system will stretch to encompass large areas. If not managed, it will take over your yard, so be sure you keep yours in check.

The genus name Anemone is Greek in origin, a reference to the nymph Anemone from mythology. Zephyr, the god of the west wind, was obsessed with Anemone. Zephyr’s wife, Flora, got quite angry and turned Anemone into a flower. Not only was Anemone changed, her flower would only open when touched by the god of the north wind, Borealis. Anemone means “windflower”, and that appellation has stuck.

The specific epithet canadensis refers to its North American origins. Sometimes referred to as Canada anemone, it’s widespread throughout that country. It’s also called crowfoot, meadow anemone, or roundleaf anemone.

With this species, taller stems may need some support. In shaded locations, the long flower stems may flop over. But it’s a great choice for a wildflower bed, and produces flowers from April through June.

Planting

Close up of a flower that has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center with mulch spread on the ground around it.
Anemone canadensis thrives in moist conditions with partial to full shade.

To plant, start by choosing a suitable location with partial shade to full shade and moist but well-draining soil. Loosen the soil and incorporate organic matter like compost to enhance soil fertility.

Plant with plenty of space for the plant to spread. Cover with soil and water thoroughly to settle the roots.

Canada anemone prefers consistently moist soil, so regular watering is crucial, especially right after planting. Mulching around the plants helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

How to Grow

This is a simple plant that’s pretty low maintenance. The one exception is ensuring it doesn’t spread where you don’t want it to be, but beyond that, they’re not fussy plants.

Light

Close up of a flower that has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center.
If you live in a hotter zone, plant these in a location that gets ample shade.

Partial to full shade is good for these lovely little wildflowers. In hotter environments, shade is particularly important in the hot afternoons. Cooler climates allow for full sun conditions year-round. But most people will find it performs best in partial shade.

Water

Close up of a flower that has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center with drops of water in the stem and the leaves.
Anemone canadensis prefers moist soils.

In its natural habitat, the Canada anemone gravitates towards moist soils. Often found along riverbanks, in damp meadows, or alongside lakes, it needs ample water.

During the spring rainy season, even oversaturated conditions are fine. This is when the plant comes springing to life, sending up long, thin flower stems. But try to avoid oversaturation for extended periods of time. While the rhizomes can take wet conditions, they do eventually need to breathe.

Mulching around your plants will reduce your need to water, as the mulch will prevent soil moisture from evaporating as fast.

Soil

A patch of a flowers that have round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center. The flowers are clustered together on a leafy forest bed.
Anemone canadensis requires a rich, damp, soil preferably with organic compost.

Windflower thrives in moist, humusy soils. It’s tolerant of a wide array of soil types, even sandy or gooey clay soils. But it loves rich, damp soil filled with decomposing organic matter.

Aim for a blend that can hold water on its own, but allows excess moisture to drain off readily. In containers, that’s easy to do – most good commercial potting blends will work fine. Garden beds with a high clay content perform better when amended to break up the clay. Loose, well-aerated soils are a plus.

Temperature & Humidity

Close up of a flower that has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center.
In higher hardiness zones, these flowers may wilt in hotter conditions.

USDA Zones 3-8 are ideal for this plant. Once you start getting into the higher zones, the plant has a tendency to wilt in the sun. It will still grow, but might not form the large colonies it would in cooler regions.

Fertilizer

Close up of a flower that has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center and large green, jagged leaves
These wildflowers don’t require much additional feeding.

Technically speaking, fertilizer isn’t required for the meadow anemone. As a wildflower, it’s accustomed to finding what it needs on its own.

An annual spreading of compost will provide plenty of fertilization. Avoid monthly feedings, as too much fertilizer can trigger your plant to spread fast. It can be hard to contain in conditions that are too optimal.

Maintenance

A group of white anemone flowers with yellow centers in the garden.
Deadhead the flowers to keep the plant looking tidy.

Once the flowers have faded, deadhead them. If you’re harvesting seeds, snip the flowers into a paper bag. Remove the stalk down to where it vanishes into the foliage.

If your plant is spreading more rapidly than planned, consider dividing the rhizomes. You can use a sharp and clean shovel to cut down through the soil and root structure. Then, simply remove any rhizomes that you don’t wish to continue to spread. You can replant these in other locations or dispose of them in a compost pile.

Thinning your plant can be done for cosmetic appearance, but is not necessary for its growth.

Propagation

Small patch of a flowers that have round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center sitting in the sun on a leafy patch.
Divide Anemone canadensis in the spring or fall.

Propagation should be done from root cuttings or seed.

The rhizomatic roots can be divided in the early spring or in the fall. Ensure each rhizome cutting is several inches long, and place them a foot apart at a depth of a half inch.

During the summer, collect the seeds for propagation. Windflower seeds are rounded with a beak at one side, and form in the center of the flower. Harvest the whole flowers into a paper bag and allow the flowers to dry fully before separating the seed.

Anemone canadensis seeds take a while to germinate. Start your seeds indoors in the late winter. A seedling heat mat will help warm your potting mix for better germination.

Common Problems

Meadow anemone will grow itself, but it’s far from trouble-free. A selection of pests find it appetizing, and it does have a few disease issues. But on the bright side, it also draws in beneficial insects. Let’s go over what problems you may face and how to resolve them.

Weak Flowers

Close up of a bent over flower that has round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center.
Your Anemone canadensis may flop over if it isn’t getting enough sun.

Do you find that your anemone flowers are flopping over? If so, your plant may be craving a little more light. While it isn’t harmful and the flowers will still bloom, extra light keeps them cheery and upright.

Inadequate Airflow

Close up of a patch of flowers that have round, paper-like petals with a bright yellow, spiky, stamen in the center on tall, skinny, stems.
Thin your Anemone canadensis out to give them more airflow as they can get too dense.

Air circulation can become an issue with these plants in two different ways. The dense growth can block airflow through the foliage. If there’s too much airflow, it can knock over the slender flower stems or break them. Keep your plants in an area sheltered from wind, but prune as needed to ensure good airflow.

Pests

Close up of a hairy caterpillar crawling on the underside of a bright green leaf on the stem of a small white flower.
Anemone canadensis are susceptible to slugs, flea beetles, and caterpillars.

The most common pests on your windflowers are fairly common ones.

A variety of caterpillars will feast on the leaves of your plant. Using a powdered or liquid form of Bacillus thurigiensis on the plant is your best bet. The munching monsters will rapidly die off. If you’d like to support pollinators this plant hosts, grow a bunch of them. You won’t miss the few that are nibbled, and the pollinators will be happy.

Flea beetles are also fairly common. Not to be confused with fleas, these beetles will cause damage to your plant’s foliage. Yellowing of leaves and skeletonizing of leaves is common. Spinosad or pyrethrin-based sprays will get rid of them. However, this native plant has plenty of beneficial insect hosts that will feed on flea beetles, keeping numbers down.

Slugs not only leave slimy trails through your windflowers, but they also eat the foliage. Use a quality snail and slug bait to lure them away and poison them. Beer traps work too. Most often slugs don’t cause much damage, and in larger plantings it probably isn’t necessary to control them.

While most nematodes are soil-dwellers, there is a type that does attack foliage. These foliar nematodes can become a problem for Anemone canadensis. Unfortunately, there are no nematicides designed for residential use. Plants that experience issues from foliar nematodes should be removed and destroyed.

Deer, which are normally a problem for gardeners, don’t like the taste of this plant. Luckily, your Anemone canadensis is safe from grazing deer!

Diseases

Close up of a leaf with a white powder like film on it.
Anemone canadensis can be plagued by several different kinds of disease.

Diseases are also relatively common in this native plant. Thankfully, they’re all treatable.

Downy mildew is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. Overhead watering can splash it up onto the leaves, where it forms what looks like grey mold on leaf undersides. Neem oil helps to prevent it from taking hold on the leaves. Once established, use a copper-based fungicide to clear it up. Remove any damaged leaves before spraying, and see if simple removal is enough.

Powdery mildew is also caused by a soil borne fungus. Unlike downy mildew, it appears as a whitish powder on the leaf surfaces. You can treat this disease in a similar manner to the ways you would downy mildew. Removal of damaged leaves is often enough to control the spread of the disease.

Some types of bacterial leaf spot may plague your plant. Remove affected leaves and see if that solves your problem before resorting to sprays which have negative effects on pollinators and wildlife.

Finally, rust can cause white or grey patches on leaves. Over time, these develop orangish spore masses and can spread. It’s important to fight this problem as soon as it’s discovered by taking out the leaves that are affected. Thin your patch and divide regularly to prevent rust.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the garden uses of Canadian anemone?

People who have ponds, streams, or other water features love this plant. It thrives near these moist environments. It’s also suitable for large spaces where a tall plant can provide erosion control. In beds and pots, it can be used as an effective tall plant as well.

Is Anemone canadensis poisonous?

Most anemone species contain caustic irritants. These can cause skin irritation, so wear gloves and long pants or long sleeves while pruning.

Do not eat any part of Anemone canadensis, as it is toxic to humans in large doses. It can irritate your mouth and throat, and cause diarrhea and vomiting in larger doses.

While some tribal groups did use it traditionally as medicine, its use is limited in scope. I highly recommend speaking with a doctor or a skilled herbalist before use.

How aggressive is Canada anemone?

In the right environment, Anemone canadensis are considered “aggressive natives”. They do rapidly spread and are often found in the wild in large colonies. Moist meadowland, lake and stream banks, and the like are common environments.

Since they spread via rhizomes under the soil’s surface, it can be hard to gauge where they’re going. If you want to sequester them in a given area, use a deep garden edging that goes at least six to eight inches under the soil’s surface.

Final Thoughts

This fast-growing windflower will really liven up your empty spaces. Anemone canadensis provides an abundance of wildflowers to entice pollinators. It can verge on invasive if you don’t keep it in check, but if maintained, it will be a wonderful landscape plant.

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A vibrant meadow stretches out, adorned with pink, red, and yellow wildflowers swaying gently. Lush foliage thrives under the warm embrace of sunlight, creating a picturesque scene of nature's beauty and tranquility.

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